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Every now and then you hear of someone who should be more well-known than they are. Medway painter and poet Bill Lewis is one of them. I’m not talking about seeing some ones work and thinking, ‘oh that’s quite good’ rather, I’m talking about someone who, once you realise what he has done, you realise he is a legend.
Bill Lewis is one of the founding members of both The Medway Poets and The Stuckist Movement of painting. The Medway Poets were founded in 1979 by Lewis along with those other Medway legends Billy Childish and Sexton Ming.
Stuckism was founded in the 1990’s by Bill and 12 others (again Billy Childish) in response to the post-modern ‘event’ art of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. In fact, the name ‘Stuckism’ comes from a conversation Emin had with Childish. During a phone call, Emin mocked Childish and his painting friends for being ‘stuck, stuck, stuck’ in the past. And the name, well, stuck. Bill Lewis and the other original Stuckists, or ReModernists, decided that this new art lacked authenticity.
When asked if he still considers himself a Stuckist, there is little doubt he knows that he will always be one of the founding members of that group, “but I’m more interested these days in the wider aims of the ReModernist experiment. The integration of spirituality into art and the attempt to avoid slipping back into post-modernism”.
I have always made pictures but I did not start writing until I was at school. I used to draw on everything as a kid and after covering the wall next to my bed my parents bought me sketch books to stop me drawing on the rest of the walls. But poetry and fiction are my main artistic outpouring.
For me, his paintings are fascinating. One in particular reminded me of the Inuit art I had seen from the Canadian Arctic when I was making my first feature film, East 3. However, it’s his writing that appeals most of all. It seems that this is where his true voice is. Looking at some of the poetry on his website www.billlewis.co.uk it strikes me as very honest. It carries that element of all great poetry in that it seems to speak to you personally without ever knowing who you are. It carries a beat to it that is often missing from modern poetry, Bill notes “we have lost the music in our poetry. Poems should sound good to the ear as well as work on the page” This is probably why his work sounds so good when performed as his YouTube clips testify.
If there is indeed, a Medway Vision, a new spirit of independence and artistry then Bill Lewis, quite simply, is one of its godfathers.
A new book of poetry “In The House Of Ladders” by Bill Lewis is out now and published by Greenheart press (an imprint of WOW Medway magazine). Price £10.